Foremost, I want to use this opportunity to commend Professor Iwu for all the relentless effort that his commission is making to ensure that the April 2007 election is free and fair. Without any exaggeration, the forthcoming election will most likely be a turning point in the history of the country, in its quest to build a democratic and prosperous nation. Moreover, it is an opportunity for The INEC chairman to write his name in gold, by conducting a free and fair election. Undoubtedly, a free and fair election plays an invaluable role not only in the democratic process of a country, but it is also a prerequisite for development in any society. As the popular saying goes ‘Democracy is a government by the people, for the people and from the people. As the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, once said, “Man has not come up with anything better than democracy, despite its little shortcomings.” In addition, it has been proved over and over that all things being equal, there is a direct correlation between the level of democracy and economic prosperity in a society.
The beauty of democracy is not only that it allows for different opinions, but it as well gives room for free competition of these opinions. At the end of the day, the electorates, without any hindrance, are given the liberty to choose. A society that opens itself up to competition of multiple opinions has much more to benefit than a totalitarian regime, where an uninvited dictator imposes himself on the people, and believes that he alone possesses the wisdom to decide what is best for the citizens.
Like in market economy, where free competition is one of its main characteristics, freedom of expression, free access to the mass media and the electorates, and free and fair elections are undoubtedly some of the main attributes of a democratic society.
It is a well known fact that Nigeria, the largest black nation in the world, is blessed with extremely talented populace. Sadly, due to misrule and bad leadership, the country has been groping in the dark since independence, and is unable to mobilise all its human and mineral resources to the maximum benefit of its citizens. You will surely agree with me that the purpose of a free and fair election and a democratic society in general, is to provide quality leadership.
Free and fair election, in my opinion, looses all its essence and purpose if all it is capable of doing is to provide the Nigerian electorate with candidates that are found wanting for one reason or the other. Today, it is obvious that the Nigerian electorate is facing a dilemma: on one side, he is yearning for a change; a total restructuring of the social, political and economic systems. And, he is hoping to bring about these changes by exercising his civic rights through a free and fair election. On the other hand, he is very much aware that the quality and calibre of the candidates vying for posts are found wanting. Definitely, a free and fair election that ensures the election of corrupt, immoral, incompetent and non law-abiding candidates does neither the citizens nor the country any good.
I want to emphasize and repeat that the purpose of a free and fair election is to bring on board competent, patriotic, honest and law-abiding leaders. Anything short of this is just a rubber stamping of mediocrity, law-lessness, corruption, dictatorship, backwardness and poverty. If all a free and fair election could bring us is recycling of incompetent, corrupt, immoral, arrogant, insensitive and non law-abiding leaders, then, it is of practically no use. It is a total waste of energy and resources, and a guarantee of a vicious circle, which we are longing to break away from.
The task of ensuring that leaders of high quality are presented to the electorates is entrusted upon independent bodies like INEC, EFCC,e.t.c. Apart from these bodies, it is the professional, moral and civic responsibilities of our journalists to probe and scrutinise vigorously the past of candidates vying for posts. The mass media has an invaluable role to play in ensuring a free and fair election, by giving not only equal access to all candidates but in also educating the electorate in order to make his choice easier and correct.
suffice to say that the recently published list of indicted politicians vying for political posts by the EFCC is not only a right step in the right direction, but as well shows the determination of the establishment in taking the bull by the horns, and in ensuring that come April 2007, only candidates with untainted and impeccable reputation will be eligible to stand for elections. I and millions of Nigerians want to commend The EFCC, most especially his head, Mallam Ribadu, for this bold and intelligent move. The refusal of INEC to register indicted candidates in the EFCC list, I believe is a very big victory for ‘quality leadership’ and democracy in general, in Nigeria. This is an unprecedented development in the history of the country! Personally, I hold the view that as far as the EFCC list is concerned, it is better 2 or 3 honest politicians fall victim than allow even one corrupt candidate to stand for election. We are talking here of lesser evil.
Having said this, it is very important to emphasize here that we are giving The EFCC the benefit of the doubt that the list was compiled professionally – without any prejudice, favoritism or external pressure. In that case, we are ready to overlook any error or omission that was committed unknowingly but genuinely, and in good faith in the process of compiling the list. Let Ribadu’s conscience be his judge.
The EFCC list focused mainly on corrupt candidates. But should being corrupt free be the only prerequisite or criteria for choosing our leaders? Should our yardstick in our search or quest for quality leaders be limited only to corrupt freeness? If I may be permitted to answer these questions, then my answer is NO! In my opinion, been corrupt free should be the minimum prerequisite in choosing our leaders. The kind of leader or President Nigeria needs now, in the 21st century should not only be corrupt free, but should also be patriotic, competent and law abiding. In ensuring that the country has quality leadership come May 2007, there should be no sacred cows and compromise.
It is a well known fact that The President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria is supposed to be the main guarantor of Nigeria’s constitution. Then, the question we should be asking ourselves today is: “Can we entrust our constitution to a man who had in the past not only grossely abused and violated it on many occasions – without any remorse, but holds our constitution in contempt? The answer is obviously NO!
That brings us to the candidacy of Major General (rtd) Muhammadu Buhari, one of the presidential candidates in the forthcoming election. In 1984, Buhari overthrew the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. No matter how well intentioned Buhari and his ‘thugs in military uniforms’ may be, the fact still remains that he staged a coup that brought to an abrupt end a democratic and legitimate regime. It is a well known fact too that coup plotting is the gravest offence in any country in the world and carries the capital punishment. Buhari and his ‘kill and go thugs’ by overthrowing Shagari’s government had not only brought an untimely death to our young democratic process but had robbed us the golden opportunity to learn and grow from our mistakes in the course of trying to establish a strong foundation for democracy, that will stand the test of time. Election is the only legitimate method recognised by the Nigerian constitution for bringing about a change of government.
I stand to be corrected, I don’t think that it is written anywhere in the Nigerian constitution that the military have the right to overthrow a democratically elected government, even, if it is found to be corrupt. There is no justification whatsoever for military coups. Moreover, as far as Nigeria is concerned, it is also a known fact that, the military are not only more corrupt and engage in more immoral activities than the civilians that they have overthrown, but the problems they initially came out to solve are more compounded by the time they live or are overthrown by other militay thugs. The conclusion is that, as far as Nigeria is concerned, unlike in Ghana, military coups have done us no good. Buhari’s coup robbed Nigeria’s young democracy 16 years! That is 4 electoral terms of 4 years each! Can you imagine what could had happened to our democratic process, if we had had 8 free and fair presidential elections since 1983 till date? Can you imagine if we never had people like ibb – alias evil genius, nor abacha as our head of states? Definitely, our democracy would had by now been much stronger and matured. Taking into consideration the fact that the country is just 47 years, 16 years without democracy is a third of our age. That is a very big damage and loss!
Buhari’s coup eventually opened the way for IBB and Abacha. Buhari’s wrongly assumed main quality or advantage before the Nigerian electorate is his incorruptness. Let us assume, at least for now, that Buhari is not corrupt, nevertheless, his 1984 coup has done a lot of irreparable damage to Nigeria socially, politically and economically. I want to repeat again that treason in any country in the world is regarded as the gravest crime carrying the death penalty. With the exception of China and a few other asian countries, those that are guilty of fraud are normally sentenced to long jail terms and fined heavily.
I strongly believe that if we can summon the courage and ban Buhari from taking part in the forthcoming April 2007 presidential elections, we will be sending a strong message to past and present future generations of thugs in khaki about our seriousness and sincerity to build a truly democratic and prosperous society. Moreover, will as well be laying a solid democratic foundation for the country that will eventually provide quality leaders that the country is desperately in need of, for good. Moreso, in actual fact, I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubts that “BUHARI HAS NOTHING GOOD TO OFFER NIGERIA AND NIGERIANS.” Coup apart, he does not have the appropiate background to be a good president. Nigeria has much better people.
Apart from the 1984 coup, which itself alone is more than enough reason to ban Buhari, he is guilty of another very serious offence: “HOLDING THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION IN CONTEMPT.” As we all can recall, an invitation from The Oputa Panel extended to Buhari to testify before it was flatly turned down. The Katsina general refused completely to co-operate with the panel, despite numerous appeals both from the panel and eminent Nigerians. You will all agree with me that it cost Buhari practically nothing to present himself before The Oputa Panel. He just wanted to proove to millions of Nigerians that he was above our law, and that its rulings are not binding on him. Does a man who holds our constitution in contempt, ridiculed our judicial system have the moral right to talk about indiscipline or demand that Nigerians obey the law of the land? The answer is capital NO!
Although, War Against Indiscipline (W.A.I.)was the core of Buhari’s program during his short dictatorship, however, his refusal to testify before the Oputa Panel had unmasked him as an hypocrite, an immoral and inconsistent character, whose main hidden slogan is “Do what I say, and not what I do.” Buhari demanded that Nigerians should be patriotic, law-abiding, moral and upright in all their endeavours and dealings, but he failed woefully to demonstrate the same values, or lead by example, when called upon to do so by the Oputa Panel. Based on his past actions, it is obvious that Buhari is not the man to uphold our constitution and protect Nigerians constitutionally.
Indeed, it is an irony and affront to Nigeria and Nigerians that an arrogant man in the person of Buhari, in his quest to be the president, has now thought it fit at last to use the ballot box and not the gun to become the no.1 citizen come May 29, 2007. In order to realise his presidential ambition, Buhari has eventually decided to go through the proper democratic procedure, an opportunity he denied millions of Nigerians for 16 years.
By banning Buhari and other thugs in military uniforms, who took part in coups, I believe it will not only be fair, but we will as well be paying them back in their own coins. They should be given their own medicine to drink, so that they will know how it tastes.
Allowing Buhari to contest for the April, 2007 presidential election will be a total disrespect to our constitution and the Nigerian populace.